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Coronavirus (COVID-19): court and procedural updates

A page to provide updates from the courts and on procedural guidance during the coronavirus outbreak. This page was last updated on 16 April 2020 at 11:00 PM

Key Resources

 

HMCTS daily operational summary on courts and tribunals during coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak - this page provides a daily summary of the HM Courts and Tribunals Service operational position during the coronavirus pandemic. HMCTS aim to update this page by 9am daily

  

Thursday 16 April 2020

Uxbridge County Court – email from Admin Officer "… Due to Covid 19 Uxbridge County Court is closed until further notice and all hearings up until 30 June have been adjourned. You will receive a new hearing date at some stage in the future…"

QB – Foreign Process Section – 5th bulletin - Master Fontaine has set out some more detailed information in relation to the work of the Foreign Process Section during the current restrictions. The bulletin explains the constraints under which the Foreign Process Section is currently operating. See also Order dated 25 Mar 2020. QB, 16 Apr 2020

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Wednesday 15 April

Remote hearings - Cross jurisdictional guidance (pdf) - Message from the Lord Chief Justice, Master of the Rolls and President of the Family Division for Circuit and District Judges sitting in Civil and Family. Includes lessons learned from the last three weeks and comments on listing and conduct of hearings. Judiciary, 15 Apr 2020. See also Gazette, 16 Apr 2020

119th Practice Direction Update to the Civil Procedure Rules – Online Civil Money Claims in support of the Covid-19 effort: The Master of the Rolls and the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice have signed amendments to Practice Direction 51R in relation to the Online Civil Money Claims (OCMC) pilot scheme. The PD amendments made by this Update come into force on 14 April 2020 and apply in relation to all claims submitted to the court on or after 11.00 a.m. on that date. Judiciary, 15 Apr 2020 (Note: Although these modifications are being expedited in support of the Covid-19 effort, they are being made as part of the ongoing process of building the Online Civil Money Claims process under Court Reform and as such, unless varied, they remain in force under the current terms of PD51R, which has a review date of 30 November 2021)

Remote hearings - advocacy guidance - the Inns of Court College of Advocacy has produced a succinct guide “Principles for Remote Advocacy”. The guide concentrates on the way in which advocates can most efficiently deploy their professional skills in communication and persuasion in the new working environment. It aims to distil existing experience into a set of principles to enable everyone to approach a remote hearing with confidence and do their job effectively. ICCA ,15 Apr 2020

Remote hearings – practical guide - Northern Circuit: Civil Trial by Video - Do's and Don'ts (pdf) – practical tips for before the hearing, skeleton arguments, agendas and reading lists, the day of the hearing and responsibilities. Northern Circuit, 15 Apr 2020

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Tuesday 14 April 2020

Information on the Senior Courts Costs Office, Central London County Court and Mayors & City Court included in the Royal Courts of Justice Operational Update: The Royal Courts of Justice operational update 14 April 2020 (pdf)

Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Lincolnshire: HHJ Godsmark QC has issued the listing and hearing protocol set out below for all civil courts in Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Lincolnshire. Kindly reproduced here by Gordon Exall

Coronavirus (Covid-19): Impact on the Court Funds Office: This page explains how the Court Funds Office is affected by the coronavirus pandemic. MOJ, 14 Apr 2020

HMCTS telephone and video hearings during coronavirus outbreak– HMCTS has updated its guidance on telephone and video hearings during the coronavirus outbreak. HMCTS, 14 Apr 2020

Courts and tribunals data on audio and video technology use during coronavirus outbreak - These figures, reported by individual courts and tribunals, provide an indicative estimate of the number of hearings that have taken place using audio and video technology in HMCTS since 19 March 2020. The figures were drawn together rapidly and specifically in response to the coronavirus outbreak. HMCTS, 14 Apr 2020

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Thursday 9 April 2020

Humber Group of Courts (pdf): (undated) guidance from DCJ, HHJ Sarah Richardson incorporating all up-to-date guidance given up to 3 April 2020. Covers remote hearings, FT & SCT trials, MT cases, variation of timetables bundles & filing, and electronic signatures.

Northumbria & Durham, Teesside (pdf): revised guidance from HHJ Freedman and HHJ Gargan on issues similar to the above. Updates the listing information, maintains 90 day extensions on MT, and on electronic signatures confirms this includes witness statements and disclosure statements.

Lancashire & Cumbria (pdf): general guidance dated 27 March from DCJ, HHJ Beech.

Courts and tribunals tracker list during coronavirus outbreak: HMCTS has updated its tracker list on the courts & tribunals open to the public during the coronavirus outbreak. HMCTS, 9 Apr 2020

CCMCC updated operational bulletin (pdf): on 7 April, the CCMCC published an Operational Bulletin incorporating an updated version of its customer FAQs.

How to join telephone and video hearings during coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak: HMCTS has published a guide for people who have been asked to join a hearing by telephone or video using BT MeetMe, Skype for Business or Cloud Video Platform (CVP) during the coronavirus outbreak. The guidance explains the preparation required for remote hearings, how to join these hearings and what will happen after the hearing. HMCTS, 8 Apr 2020

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Tuesday 7 April 2020

South Yorkshire Civil: Covid listing and hearing protocol - HHJ Robinson, the DCJ for South Yorkshire, has published a listing and hearing protocol for all court users. It covers matters including, the status of the court buildings, listing priorities, the conduct of hearings, adjourned hearings, and orders. This is reproduced in full by Gordon Exall here.

(Different from notice below) Cases proceeding in Birmingham High Court (QBD) and County Court: Guidance from the DCJ - HHJ Worster: the Acting Designated Civil Judge for Birmingham has issued the following guidance in relation to cases proceeding in the QBD at Birmingham High Court and Birmingham County Court. The guidance, reproduced in full by Gordon Exall here, contains more substantive issues than the earlier notice posted today. Covers matters including, trials of claims on all tracks, applications, electronic bundles, and guidance for emailed core bundles.

Notice from Birmingham County Court – practical information about arrangements for hearings now that the County Court Building is closed.

Medical records - Northern Care Alliance Letter - Letter from the NCA covering Salford, Oldham, Bury, Rochdale and North Manchester. Covers their approach to litigation but also draws attention "to the fact that at present, we do not have capacity to copy medical records; we will need to review this in the coming weeks, subject to the progress in fighting COVID-19."

QB update  – Court Funds Office – an update on making deposits electronically and also on payments out of the CFO

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Monday 6 April 2020

Civil update for North and West Yorkshire: new guidance today from the DCJ – Civil Litigation Brief – Gordon Exall has reproduced new guidance from HHJ Gosnell for courts in North and West Yorkshire. Includes details on the resumption of hearings on the various tracks and how they can be dealt with, along with guidance on bundles and communications with the court.

Court guidance: a condensed view of the guidance given by courts in and around Manchester | Coronavirus: guidance for lawyers and businesses At a time when many courts have issued detailed guidance as to how to continue working Sophie Hurst of Kings Chambers  provides  condensed guidance of practices in the courts in the north.

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Friday 3 April 2020

QB update – provides an update on the new Practice Directions and also the following on electronic signatures: During this period when most court users are working remotely, often without secure access to scanning technology the QB Action Department has received a number of queries from court users as to whether documents filed with the court bearing either no signatures or electronic signatures are acceptable. Rule 5.3 permits any document that is required to be signed to be signed “if the signature is printed by computer or other mechanical means.” The QB Action Department will accept all documents signed with electronic signatures, but documents that are unsigned will not be accepted.

Police interview protocol – The Law Society has worked with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) on a coronavirus (COVID-19) interview protocol. This guidance is intended to assist investigators and prosecutors in deciding whether suspects should be interviewed as part of a police investigation during the coronavirus pandemic. It will be reviewed monthly from 1 April 2020 and is intended for use only during the coronavirus crisis. See also Gazette coverage.

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Thursday 2 April 2020

Practice Direction 51ZA - Extension of Time Limits and Clarification of PD51Y - Coronavirus
Practice Direction 51ZA principally relates to the extension of time limits during the Coronavirus pandemic. The PD is effective immediately i.e. from today, 2 April 2020
The main changes effected by this PD are:

  • Allows the parties to agree an extension up to 56 days without formally notifying the court (rather than the current 28 days), so long as that does not put a hearing date at risk;
  • Any extension of more than 56 days needs to be agreed by the court;
  • The court is required to take into account the impact of the pandemic in considering such applications, as well as applications for adjournment and relief from sanction;
  • The PD also clarifies the audio and video hearing PD 51Y (the 116th PD Update) by making clear that a person seeking permission to listen to or view a recording of a hearing may do so by request and is not required to make a formal application under the CPR.

The PD ceases to have effect on 30th October 2020.
The position will remain under review. See also 118th PD Making document and CPR homepage

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Wednesday 1 April 2020

APIL and FOIL Best Practice Guidance for Mutual Co-Operation (pdf): APIL and FOIL have set up a working party to discuss various aspects of members’ work, which have been affected during the coronavirus outbreak. A set of best practices have been agreed ad it is recommended that APIL and FOIL's members consider and adopt where possible. Covers: telephone calls/email; service by email inc. new proceedings; service of ongoing proceedings; medical examinations; exchange of evidence; extensions of time; remote hearings; adjournments; interim payments; BACS payments; costs budgeting; and limitation.
See also Gazette coverage Defendant and claimant lawyers agree relaxed litigation rules

Scotland specific provisions: the above guidance also includes Scotland specific provisions. Note though that ABI, APIL, FOIL, MASS have agreed a Limitation Protocol for Scotland (pdf) which has been circulated separately.

HMCTS message to civil users (pdf): HMCTS asks professional court users to only submit new personal injury claims (either Part 7 or Part 8) where absolutely necessary, for example those claims that are approaching limitation. The handling of these and the associated fee processes are causing particularly (sic) challenges at this time.

Manchester guidance from the DCJ (pdf): see "Note on Covid-19 Orders, Temporary Procedures and Listing Priorities"

Business and Property Courts in Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester & Newcastle: Mr Justice Snowden, Vice-Chancellor of the County Palatine of Lancaster has send out COVID-19 Update Number 1.  The update provides a position summary a guide for urgent applications. Kindly reproduced by Gordon Exall here

Birkenhead County Court – Part 8 stayed claims – back to back disposals – Stage 3 RTA lists: 3 more guidance notes from the Birkenhead District Judges. One addresses the significant number of Part 8 claims stayed pursuant to 8BPD.16; one provides guidance on the practical operation of the Stage 3 lists;and one provides further guidance on how the back to back disposal list will be managed, including instructions the hearing itself, on bundles and the filing of documents.

Birkenhead County Court – Part 8 infant approvals – please don't call: as you will be aware Part 8 Infant Approval appointments are now being conducted on paper with no parties in attendance as directed by the District Judges. The court politely asks parties not to call or email for the outcome, but to wait until the order is drawn and sent out.

Court Funds Office – BACS: the CFO will now accept electronic documentation and payment by BACS. The change has not yet been included in the HMCTS announcements but FOIL has spoken with the CFO, which confirmed that electronic versions of the deposit form and the court order can be sent by email: enquiries@cfo.gov.uk. Upon receipt, the CFO will supply BACS details and a case number to enable payment to be made. The CFO can be contacted on 0300 020 0199 – a skeleton staff remains in place.

Updated - Civil Justice in England and Wales: Protocol regarding Remote Hearings: previously published on 22 March. New paragraph 6A referring to new Practice Direction 51Y “Video or Audio Hearings During Coronavirus Pandemic”

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Tuesday 31 March 2020

HMCTS daily update: attention is drawn in the above update to the following *new* update:

Supreme Court - the Supreme Court has published a page of advice and guidance for all Court users during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Arrangements during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic

Administrative Court: The Administrative Court has issued a number of notices relating to their Covid-19 arrangements. These are not yet on the court website.  However they are available from the ILPA website Administrative Court Office Notices (March 2020) [h/t Gordon Exall]

Birkenhead County Court: We've received an update from 25 March which contains details on how hearings listed there will proceed. Update attached along with instructions for infant approvals. (Note, this predates the update from 27 March below). See Birkenhead email and infant approval instructions.

CCMCC processing times: the County Court Money Claims Centre (Salford) and the County Court Business Centre (Northampton) have provided an update on the processing of work at the CCMCC in light of the Covid-19 outbreak. Read more

Government Legal Department - contact: The service of new legal proceedings should be via email. Read more

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Monday 30 March 2020

HMCTS daily operational summary on courts and tribunals during coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak -  a daily summary of the HMCTS operational position during the coronavirus pandemic. See in particular the section on the High Court and Court of Appeal:

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Friday 27 March 2020

Priority courts scheme - from Monday 30 March - HMCTS are consolidating the work of courts and tribunals into fewer buildings - some are open to the public, some buildings are staffed but are not open to the public, and some courts are suspended and the buildings are temporarily closed. , HMCTS say the ‘staffed courts’ will support video and telephone hearings, progress cases without hearings and ensure continued access to justice. Link includes detailed spreadsheet tracking all courts and tribunals: Priority courts to make sure justice is served - GOV.UK

County Court Money Claims Centre publishes customer FAQs - On 27 March 2020, the County Court Money Claims Centre circulated customer FAQs (dated 26 March 2020) in response to the 2019 novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak. See PDF of FAQs

Birkenhead – updated guidance – SCT, FT & MT matters – contains details on the moving of SCT hearings, extensions on FT directions & trial windows, and extensions on MT directions and CCMCs. See PDF for full details.

Birmingham – BPC – standard directions for remote hearings by Skype – St Philips Chambers have published these directions Covid 19- Standard directions for remote hearings by Skype in the Business and Property Courts - Birmingham

QBD – updated notification regarding the Queen's Bench Interim Applications Court – contains guidance on electronic documentation to be sent for interim applications. See PDF.

CPR - 117th PD Update – Possession proceedings - The Master of the Rolls and the Lord Chancellor have signed Practice Direction 51Z (PD) in relation to housing possession proceedings during the Coronavirus pandemic. Civil - Civil Procedure Rules

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Thursday 26 March 2020

Chief Coroner - guidance - The Chief Coroner has issued guidance on the Coronavirus which can be found here Chief Coroner Guidance - Covid-19 (pdf)

Liverpool - Pending any CPR rule change (temporary) standard directions following DQs now extending periods of compliance by 12 weeks UFN, ie 16 weeks in total.  Liverpool Civil Court on Twitter

Newcastle and Durham – guidance from HHJ Freedman  - includes information on the vacation of SCT and FT trials up to 9 April; allows extensions of up to 90 days on MT directions and explains when you need to let the court know; allows electronic signatures. Source: Twitter, 25 Mar 2020

SRA update - contains links to a range of information to support the legal community. 25 Mar 2020

HMCTS update - daily operational summaries starting today. See also judiciary link relating to the new Practice Direction 51Y. 25 Mar 2020

Coronavirus Act 2020 - received Royal Assent on 25 Mar 2020 

Virtual Hearings - articles on 2 recent participant-heavy virtual hearings, and some practical tips:

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Wednesday 25 March 2020

Practice Direction on Video or Audio Hearings in Civil Proceedings during the Coronavirus Pandemic - this is a technical amendment, which clarifies the manner in which the court may exercise its discretion to conduct hearings remotely in private. It also clarifies what steps the court may make to ensure access by the public to remote hearings that have been held in private. See CPR homepage and 116th PD making document (PDF)

QB - an update to the QB Masters hearings guidance. Kindly reproduced by Gordon Exall  

Liverpool Civil Courts - new Twitter account - set up by HHJ Wood QC DCJ and managed by judges and staff for the latest information on how the courts are affected by Covid 19 and how business will be managed Liverpool Civil Court (@court_civil) | Twitter

ABI COVID-19 Personal Injury Protocol – limitation frozen - with immediate effect and for a minimum of 4 weeks a protocol has been agreed whereby all limitation dates in all personal injury cases are frozen and claimants undertake to respond constructively to defendant requests for extension of time to serve a defence. There is an escalation process and a hotline by way of support. ABI, 24 March 2020

MedCo - Remote Examinations – ban temporarily suspended - with immediate effect and until further notice, the ban on remote video medical examinations for the purposes of MedCo reports has been suspended. The Board maintain their position that remote examination is not routinely appropriate and will keep the position closely under review.  The ban will be reinstated at the earliest possible opportunity. See Medco update for conditions that must be adhered to if you intend to use remote video medical examinations. See also Temporary Measures Update in response to a number of issues raised by Users in recent weeks and the rapid development of Government policy and advice. MedCo, 23 Mar 2020.

Birkenhead County Court – RTA hearings - Stage 3 lists - in operation from 24 Mar 2020: for as long as we continue to operate, please note the system that we will attempt to operate for stage 3 lists at Birkenhead from 24 March 2020:

  1. The hearings will take place remotely using BT meet me facilities.

  2. The Judge will dial out to you at the time of the hearing.

  3. That means that each night before the next day’s list,  you need to check the lists on COURTEL and email Rachel Beddows on rachel.beddows@justice.gov.uk with your name, which case/s  you are appearing on and your contact phone number.

  4. You will then be called at or around the time of the hearing which will be conducted by phone and recorded by the court.

  5. IT IS VITAL THAT YOU TRY AND NARROW ISSUES OR IF YOU CAN, SETTLE ANY HEADS OF DAMAGE to ensure that we can get through the lists.

Manchester - Notice from the DJC, HHJ Bird - "All face-to-face hearings due to take place today and up to and including Tuesday 31 March 2020 are hereby adjourned..." See Gordon Exall post

Birmingham County Court – voicemail message received from the court "we are not having any fast track trials or face to face hearings taking place at Birmingham, with immediate effect.24 Mar 2020

County Court (all?) –  Lamb Chambers update includes  the following statement from the Chair of the Chancery Bar Association: “The ChBA has been informed by HHJ Johns that the senior judiciary have decided that no hearings which require people to attend are now to take place in the County Court until further notice, unless there is genuine urgency and no remote hearing is possible. All cases currently being heard will be adjourned part heard so that arrangements can be made, where possible, to conduct the hearing remotely.  So far as the Central London County Court is concerned, all face to face hearings at Central London today are being adjourned to a date to be fixed so you do not need to attend.  We cannot say what the position is in other courts at this point.” 24 Mar 2020

Scotland - Court Arrangements from 25 March – the Scottish Courts and Tribunals has released its latest COVID-19 update on its homepage. See details here

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Monday 23 March 2020

Merseyside Guidance - from HHJ Graham Wood QC - Covid-19 arrangements and temporary measures at Liverpool and Chester County Court and other courts in the Cheshire and Merseyside cluster for CIVIL WORK. Includes, details of lists being vacated - SCT, FT and M-T, (cases can exceptionally be kept in the list on request), and guidance for infant approvals and practical measures for dealing with remote hearings. Source: Twitter, 23 Mar 2020

North & West Yorkshire and Leeds DR: HHJ Gosnell has issued the following Listing Protocol kindly reproduced by Gordon Exall 

West Yorkshire Courts - for a full user guide to conducting remote hearings, in West Yorkshire Courts, please click here (pdf)Parklane Plowden Chambers, 23 Mar 2020

Review of court arrangements due to COVID-19, message from the Lord Chief Justice - Confirms that no new trials will start this week and jurors summoned for today are told to stay at home. Efforts should be made to bring existing trials to conclusion if possible. On Civil Cases, he says "Guidance has already been given about the use of remote hearings (see below). Hearings requiring the physical presence of parties and their representatives and others should only take place if a remote hearing is not possible and if suitable arrangements can be made to ensure safety." Courts and Tribunals Judiciary, 23 Mar 2020

Civil Court guidance on how to conduct remote hearings - The protocol (attached) has been produced to assist with the operation of civil justice during the COVID-19 pandemic. Includes guidance on steps to take when hearings are fixed, the remote hearing itself, and preparation for the hearings in terms of electronic bundles. Courts and Tribunals Judiciary, 22 Mar 2020

Key workers in the legal sector - Legal professionals involved in court and tribunal hearings, as well as those advising people deprived of their liberty or on executing wills are ‘keyworkers’, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has said.

Coronavirus BillCoronavirus Bill 2019-21 — UK Parliament The Bill will have all its stages in the House of Commons on 23 March 2020

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Friday 20 March 2020

Applications to adjourn civil and family hearings because of coronavirus (COVID-19) - New HMCTS Guidance. The Lord Chancellor has authorised that in certain cases the fee can be waived for applications to adjourn a civil or family hearing. HMCTS, 20 Mar 2020

Birkenhead County Court - Stage 3 Hearings & Disposals - Memo circulated looking at proposals to deal with stage 3 hearings by Skype or Microsoft Teams and the logistics of this. Thoughts invited on how this might work.

Manchester County Court & QBD - Temporary Measures - see letter from the Manchester DCJ, HHJ Bird on the 'Temporary Measures' which will apply to county court cases in Greater Manchester and to general Queen’s Bench Division work. Covers hearings, applications and correspondence. Kindly reproduced by Gordon Exall Civil Court users in Manchester: Guidance from the Designated Civil Judge – Civil Litigation Brief

Commercial Court - comment from Teare J (in charge of the Commercial Court) reported on Twitter - see link to Tweet and comment below:

Comment by Teare J

Key Workers list now published. Includes “those essential to the running of the justice system” Guidance for schools, colleges and local authorities on maintaining educational provision - GOV.UK.  Susan Acland-Hood, CEO of HMCTS agrees on Twitter that this includes "lawyers working within the criminal justice system at Courts, police stations and prisons" Link to Twitter thread.

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Thursday 19 March 2020

Coronavirus Bill introduced - 329 pages - Coronavirus Bill 2019-21 — UK Parliament

Lord Chief Justice - new guidance from the LCJ this morning Coronavirus (COVID-19): Message from the Lord Chief Justice to judges in the Civil and Family Courts | Courts and Tribunals Judiciary

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Wednesday 18 March 2020

Lord Chancellor's statement -Courts during coronavirus pandemic: Robert Buckland statement - GOV.UK – 18 March 2020

Coronavirus Bill
Press release: Emergency bill to strengthen coronavirus (COVID-19) response plans - GOV.UK - New laws will be introduced to protect public health, increase NHS capacity, strengthen social care and support the public to take the right action at the right time.
Guidance: What the coronavirus bill will do - GOV.UK

HMCTS: telephone & video hearing guidance (more of a criminal procedure slant but some comment on civil) HMCTS telephone and video hearings during coronavirus outbreak - GOV.UK

QBD update: counter closures and info on fees and bundles plus list of email addresses Royal Courts of Justice: Updated counter arrangements for the Queen's Bench Division

Court of Appeal update: counter closures and email addresses Royal Courts of Justice: Updated counter arrangements for the Court of Appeal Civil Division

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Tuesday 17 March 2020

Lord Chief Justice Announcements 17 March 2020
Coronavirus: Jury trials, message from the Lord Chief Justice | Courts and Tribunals Judiciary
Coronavirus update from the Lord Chief Justice | Courts and Tribunals Judiciary

Press
Coronavirus: No jury trials longer than three days in England and Wales - BBC News – 17 March 2020
Coronavirus: Business as usual 'not realistic' says lord chief justice | News | Law Gazette – 17 March 2020

Supreme Court
Registry update: Registry update: Time limits for filing documents in the Supreme Court and JCPC - The Supreme Court - 17 March 2020

MedCo - CORONAVIRUS - UPDATE - 17 March 2020 | Medco - The ban on the use of video examinations will not be lifted at this time.

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